Why every UX Designer should try some teaching?

I am giving classes on UX Design to the University of Lodz students for the second time now. I am quite lucky that UX is dynamically evolving so I don’t have to repeat myself during lectures. I was a little stressed before I took up this activity. My concerns revolved mainly around such fears as:  What if I don’t know all the answers to the questions? What if I say something stupid? What if they prove me wrong? What if… x100? To be honest… all of those nightmares came true but in the end they weren’t nightmares at all. It happened to be a little like client<->vendor one semester workshops on various topics and I fell in love with this activity. Now, I grab every occasion to teach some students or provide workshops especially to more experienced and smarter people than I am. Why? Here is why.

Nothing is so obvious as you think

The first lecture I have given to the students was more about UX project methodologies and then we switched to the basics of Information Architecture. The initial task was to define the IA for an existing site. You would be amazed how people think of it when they heard of it for the first time and try to follow the idea of IA.

The laziest students tried to find ctrl+c ctrl+v solution so they ended up looking at a sitemap asking me if this is the thing they should redraw.

Others for example concentrated on the homepage content and tried to figure out what are the priorities for the content itself and put it in the hierarchical diagram like way.

Finally others mixed between sitemap and content approach and felt a little lost at the beginning.

It expands your horizons

So you thought that you know quite a lot about how users think. The students will prove you wrong just in a second. It usually comes up during the topic of Customer Journey Mapping. When I asked about the motivations for certain tasks I was quite amazed with the answers. I was like: “Well this is how the next generation is thinking”.

Never assume and give statements. Better ask and interact with the answers :)

You will see your design fail

I took party in many commercial deployments of my designs. Since I am a UX consultant and don’t have access to my client’s products and statistics I can only ask or guess how the sites and apps are performing (well, we do user testing and other stuff, but when we deploy the project it is a good client’s will if they share what is going well or badly with the product and I don’t have many chances to see what is really going on out there).

So what do I do with the students? I ask them to perform tasks occasionally on the sites or apps I took part in UX design and… there were times that I was astonished how they perceived the products themselves. You don’t hear from client nor stats “Doh! That sucks!”.

But on the other hand it might give you a piece of sanity. Do you remember when you tried to convince the client why they should implement one of your ideas but they refused? I do and I do remember a lot. During the classes I’ve heard words like: “Doh! That sucks! They should have done this like <there you put the idea you failed to deliver to the client or the client changed after the site deployment>”.

You’ll get plenty of inspirations

Nothing gets you more creative than listening, responding or sharing. The young people are not afraid to experiment and are not fit in the tiny corporation boxes just think different. They don’t assume, they don’t have this “it can’t be done” attitude. They just come up with an idea and try to put it into practice.

They will try to prove you’re wrong at all points at all costs

UX design for some people is like magic or more like shamanism. They don’t perceive it as a solid knowledge or any scientific proven territory. So there will be a group of people who will try to find a hole in every logical process you present. You will get the most unexpected questions from your students just to down your way of thinking. They will be like the clients from hell who ask tough questions during pitching or when they try to kill your design.

So this is actually fantastic exercise to improve your conversational and rhetorical skills. I remember the students who wanted to prove me wrong so badly that they actually were walking through the shopping mall and taking photos that were against the things I said before to them. They showed me a big pack of those and asked: “How about that?”. You wouldn’t see that coming :)

All in one experience

So teaching UX is like having super intelligent tough client with a tons of ideas interacting with you. As far as I know designers love challenges so this is something every designer should definitely try on their own.